How to Become a Notary in California

Written by: Nik Ventouris

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How to Become a Notary in California

Looking to make a difference in your community? Let us guide you on a rewarding journey towards a unique profession.

In this comprehensive guide on how to become a notary in California, we lay out the roadmap to achieving this goal. With easy-to-follow, actionable steps, we’ll help you navigate this intriguing process, turning the complex into simple.

Whether you’re looking to serve your community or generate additional income, this article will offer everything you need to know to get started.

Recommended: Interested in getting started? Have a look at the National Notary Association’s packages, which include California’s mandatory live & online training as well as E&O insurance, notary supplies, a surety bond, and four years of notary hotline phone support.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($199)

Become a Notary in California

In order to become a notary in California, you will need to complete a few simple steps.

Step 1: Meet the Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a notary license in California, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a legal resident of California
  • Not have been convicted of a felony

Note: You also cannot have been convicted of a non-felony crime that directly conflicts with the duties of a notary (i.e., crimes that relate to dishonesty, etc.).

Step 2: Complete an Approved Education Course

You will need to take a six hour state-approved education course in order to become a notary in the state of California.

The goal of this course is to:

  • Provide all candidates with proper training
  • Offer a comprehensive understanding of the notarial duties and responsibilities of the role
  • Reduce complaints and lawsuits that arise as a result of misconduct or negligence on behalf of a notary

Keep in mind that this course will need to be taken even if you’ve operated as a notary in the past (e.g., if you missed the deadline for renewing your license, etc.).

In order to find an education course, we recommend having a look at the Secretary of State’s Approved Vendors page.

Note: After you complete your course, you will receive a Proof of Completion certificate. This will remain valid for up to two years following its date of issuance.

Recommended Course

Have a look at the National Notary Association’s packages, which include California’s mandatory live & online training as well as E&O insurance, notary supplies, a surety bond, and four years of notary hotline phone support.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($199)

Step 3: Complete the CA Notary Public Application Form 

Next, you will need to complete your Notary Public Application (Form SOS/NP-30).

You will need to provide your personal information (e.g., SSN, date of birth, driver’s license, full name, etc.), business and residential information, background information, and passport photograph.

Note: You do not have to file this form to the Secretary of State. Instead, you will be required to bring it with you when you sit your notary public exam.

Step 4: Register and Take the Notary Public Exam

Before you file your application with the Secretary of State, you will need to take (and pass) the Notary Public Exam.

This is administered via CPS HR Consulting. You can schedule your exam via phone (916) 263-3520) or via email (notaryinfo@cpshr.us).

You will need to bring the following items to the exam:

  • Current photo identification (e.g., California Driver’s License, etc.)
  • Your completed Notary Public Application form
  • A 2” X 2” color passport photo of yourself
  • Your Proof of Completing certificate
  • Your registration confirmation letter
  • The $40 exam and application processing fee

Keep in mind that your exam results will become available 15 business days after your examination. You will need to obtain a score of 70% or higher in order to pass.

Note: The SOS recommends all candidates read the Notary Public Handbook before sitting the exam.

Step 5: Submit Your Fingerprints via LiveScan

After passing your exam, you will need to submit a request for live scan service (form SOS/BCII 8016) with the Secretary of State.

The form will need to contain your:

  • Gender
  • Height and weight
  • Eye and hair color
  • Place of birth
  • Full name and alias
  • SSN and driver’s license number

Keep in mind that you will need to pay the fingerprint processing fee and the rolling fee at the live scan site. This can be done via cash, check or money order.

Note: You will need to bring a form of ID to the live scan site in order to get fingerprinted.

Step 6: Purchase a $15,000 Surety Bond

California notaries are required by law to purchase and maintain a $15,000 Notary public bond for their entire four-year term.

This protects the California public against any financial losses that arise due to negligence or misconduct on behalf of a notary public.

It is important to note that this notary bond ONLY protects the public from potential financial harm. To ensure you are also protected, it’s a good idea to consider investing in an Errors and Omissions (E&O) policy.

This is a type of insurance that provides coverage for any potential mistakes or omissions that you might make as you perform notarial acts. It’s an extra layer of protection that can give you peace of mind while operating for a relatively low opportunity cost.

Step 7: File Notary Public Oath & Surety Bond

After your application has been approved and you have passed your background check, a notary public commission packet will be emailed to you by the SOS.

This will include:

  • A cover letting with filing instructions
  • Your notary public commission certificate
  • Two notary public Oath and Certificate of Filing forms
  • A certificate of Authorization to Manufacture Notary Public Seals
  • A list of Authorized Manufacturers of Notary Public Seals

You will then need to file an oath of office — as well as your surety bond — with the county clerk’s office in the county in which their principal place of business is located.

All filings with the county clerk must be done within 30 days of your approval (either by mail or in person).

Generally speaking, we recommend readers deliver this in person as it is more likely to guarantee a timely filing.

Step 8: Obtain Notary Supplies

Finally, you’ll need to acquire your notary public supplies.

These include your notary stamp or seal (used to affix to documents), as well as your public journal.

Remember that, as a notary, you will serve a vital role in your community. This responsibility requires diligence, precision, and a high ethical standard.

Recommended: Interested in getting started? Have a look at the National Notary Association’s packages, which include California’s mandatory live & online training as well as E&O insurance, notary supplies, a surety bond, and four years of notary hotline phone support.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($199)

How to Become a Notary in California FAQ

How long does it take to become a notary in CA?

The time it takes to become a notary in California varies. It largely depends on the speed of completion of your required notary education course, exam, and the processing time for your application. Generally, it can take 6-8 weeks.

How much money does a notary make in California?

Income can vary widely for notaries in California, depending on factors like location, demand, and whether notary services are the main source of income or a supplement. However, notaries can typically charge up to $15 per signature as of the current state regulations. If you are interested in operating as a California notary, have a look at our How to Become a Notary in California article.

Is the CA notary exam hard to pass?

The difficulty of the California notary public exam will depend on your level of preparation. The exam consists of 30 questions, and you will need to answer at least 21 correctly to pass. Completing a state-approved notary education course will greatly aid in passing the exam. For more information, see our How to Become a Notary article.

How much does it cost to become a notary public in California?

Becoming a notary in California involves several fees: a $40 exam fee, a $20 application processing fee, and a bond cost, which can vary but is generally around $38-$50. Additionally, you’ll need to purchase your notary seal and journal, as well as E&O insurance (recommended).

For all related articles, have a look at our How to Become a Notary page.